Interactions between SARS-CoV-2 variants?

Posted by Armando @bolso1, Jan 23 8:31am

There is a widespread concern about the newly identified SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The comments in the news seem to imply that a person can only have one type of virus, but it makes sense to expect that one can get a combination of variants. Therefore, I can't see how they would be ever be able to ascertain if a variant is deadlier than the others.
Any thoughts on this?

Ah, you always pose such interesting questions. Have you ever considered becoming a medical researcher? Then you could help us all get the answers we need!

I was listening to the radio yesterday (either BBC or NPR) and research is underway to identify and "sort out" the variants – but if we are seeing 5 known mutations in one year, who know how many others already exist? My resident Covid nurse tells me at this time some research is underway to try to ID strains in hospitalized patients and determine if different treatments are more effective, but that it is slow going because in so many cases they are just rushing to keep people out of the ICU, or once in ICU trying to save a life. I believe it will be like cancer and HIV, over time it will be better understood.

They may understand over time how often multi-strain infection occurs, but as with H1N1, H1N2, H2N2… in influenza, it will be years before they reach any conclusions. I believe the priority will be not in determining which is more deadly, but in insuring the vaccines address as many variants as possible.

Sue

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@sueinmn

Ah, you always pose such interesting questions. Have you ever considered becoming a medical researcher? Then you could help us all get the answers we need!

I was listening to the radio yesterday (either BBC or NPR) and research is underway to identify and "sort out" the variants – but if we are seeing 5 known mutations in one year, who know how many others already exist? My resident Covid nurse tells me at this time some research is underway to try to ID strains in hospitalized patients and determine if different treatments are more effective, but that it is slow going because in so many cases they are just rushing to keep people out of the ICU, or once in ICU trying to save a life. I believe it will be like cancer and HIV, over time it will be better understood.

They may understand over time how often multi-strain infection occurs, but as with H1N1, H1N2, H2N2… in influenza, it will be years before they reach any conclusions. I believe the priority will be not in determining which is more deadly, but in insuring the vaccines address as many variants as possible.

Sue

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Thank you for your comments Sue. As a matter of fact, I have been a researcher, not in medicine but in agriculture!

I agree that vaccine protection is key, and my post was prompted by what I read today in the news about the mortality of the variants (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/23/too-early-to-say-scientists-unsure-if-uk-covid-variant-is-more-deadly), that feeds fear in people (without a clear evidence base) and might make them more distrustful of vaccines, precisely what we want to avoid.

In the Guardian's article, Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, is quoted as saying that "for every thousand people in their 60s infected with the original strain of coronavirus, 10 would be expected to die. With the new variant, this figure is thought to rise to 13 or 14 deaths per thousand – an increase in mortality of about 30%." That comparison implies to me that you have a group of people infected ONLY with the original strain on the one hand, and another group infected ONLY with the new variant, on the other. Now: is that possible? I would expect that it would be more likely that people have combinations of strains.

They can determine which variants are present in a certain individual, but how would they determine the proportions of each variant? Maybe that is why Sir Vallance added that there was “a lot of uncertainty around these numbers”.

Regards,
Armando

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Hello Armando – that's the announcement I saw too. I am getting tired of the fear-mongering brought about by these frequent announcements. Then the national media, local media & social media repeat, repeat & repeat in alarmed tones & with embellishments. Weeks later the original announcement is rolled back, amended, retracted or proven false. People blame the media when it is actually the scientists, their administrators or politicians, wishing to not be accused of "hiding information", who put preliminary observations (not necessarily facts) out prematurely.

I wish there was a central clearing house that vetted and confirmed Covid information before release. Perhaps we would not be in quite the mess we have now.

As for the vaccine, you are so right – we need to get everyone vaccinated ASAP to stop the spread. If they later need to tweak the formula and provide boosters, fine – that's no different than the current influenza vaccines. The biggest obstacle right now is doses. Much is being made of the fact that only half the doses in hand have been injected, but when you consider that future deliveries are so uncertain, who can blame the local health departments?

Sue

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Hi Sue,
Another important issue is the need to be critical and to analyze scientifically what we read. I recently read the book "Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World", by Carl T. Bergstrom, and Jevin West (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48889983-calling-bullshit), which provides very useful advice and tools to sort out the information that we receive.
Armando

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@bolso1

Hi Sue,
Another important issue is the need to be critical and to analyze scientifically what we read. I recently read the book "Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World", by Carl T. Bergstrom, and Jevin West (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48889983-calling-bullshit), which provides very useful advice and tools to sort out the information that we receive.
Armando

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Armando – Just ordered it from my library – thanks!
Sue

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